📚Noisy Deadlines

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."- Douglas Adams

I’ve been successfully cultivating the habit of running regularly. I try to run every day unless it’s raining (not a fan of running in the rain) or I have an unavoidable appointment. It usually happens sometime after 5:30 pm.

I run the same 5K path every day. And I started to notice the flowers along the way. There are always new flowers appearing here and there, new colors flourish, small flowers turn bigger, flowers mingled with green. I don’t think I ever that much attention to flowers before. I especially love the tiny ones.

#summer #flowers


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

I started listening to audiobooks this month. I still prefer reading fiction the old-fashion way using my eyes (with a slight touch of technology with an e-reader) but I’m okay listening to non-fiction. Especially now that I started using my public library to listen to books. I had fun with Harry Dresden and powered through the honker that is Dragonfly Falling. All worth it!

  1. Grave Peril (The Dresden Files #3) by Jim Butcher, 378p: Stakes are higher for Harry Dresden on this book. Innocent people die, more than I've seen in previous books. Overly powerful ghost demons, sorcerers, and vampires. We learn there are 3 types of vampires in this world and what are their differences. They ended up being way more powerful than I thought. Harry Dresden also shows some wicked powers. It's pure action fun, with supernatural stuff going on.

  2. Adventures in Opting Out: A Field Guide to Leading an Intentional Life by Cait Flanders, 272p: This was a perfect book to consume in audio form. I listened to it in the mornings and I enjoyed its friendly tone. It made me feel good about my life choices because it touches on how it is important for us to build our own unique lives, without caring about “societal norms”. Each one of us will choose a different path, and that's okay. I liked it because it is a memoir filled with hiking references. It's beautifully written and such a feel-good read.

  3. Dragonfly Falling (Shadows of the Apt #2) by Adrian Tchaikovsky, 689p: Lots of things going on in this book because the War has come and the main characters are all scattered in different cities trying to defend themselves from the Wasp Empire advance. It's rich with battle scenes and military strategy discussions. And I was not bored by it. Thalric continues to be that complex lawful-evil character turned lawful-neutral. Totho makes a sacrifice that is probably changing his alignment. It's war and people die. All the characters go through the process of growing up, caught in a reality that is much harsher and more violent than they've ever imagined. They are not students anymore, it's the real deal.

  4. Conscious: A Brief Guide to the Fundamental Mystery of the Mind by Annaka Harris, 144p: This is very meta. We are conscious. But what does it mean? How does it feel to be conscious? Why do we feel we are conscious? Are trees conscious as well? What about rocks? What about atoms? What is the hard problem of consciousness? It's a book full of interesting questions. Perfect for a wandering mind.

#readinglist #books #reading


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

Overconsumption. I veered off the path of excess consumption of material goods a few years ago. Minimalism was my tool for that. I like the definition given by The Minimalists:

Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.

Noticing objects and material stuff around us is easy. It’s visible. We can plan decluttering sessions and visibly see space getting created. Now, what about intangible stuff? Information? Thoughts? Memories? Worry?

I don’t have excess material possessions anymore. Everything I have is enough and fills my needs. That doesn’t mean I live with less than 100 items, it just means I have what I consider is enough for myself and my lifestyle. It’s not about restrictions, it’s about eliminating the superfluous.

But I’ve been consuming and accumulating a lot of digital stuff over the years: hundreds of clipped articles on Evernote, guides and manuals I never read, RSS feeds from dozens of sites, articles to read saved on Instapaper or Pocket, dozens of newsletters cluttering my inbox, social media feeds.

It took a while, but I opted out of many of those digital things and now I think I have only what is meaningful to me:

  • I subscribe to 5 newsletters now, having unsubscribed from dozens in the past months. This amount is not overwhelming to me right now. It feels manageable.
  • I cancelled my Instapaper subscription. I had this idea that I would build a digital library with my notes and all the articles I read over time. I realized it was not important to me. I had more articles than I had time to read them. And the list of unread articles made me feel anxious. So I decided not to collect articles anymore. I much rather read a book.
  • I unsubscribed from dozens (if not hundreds) of RSS feeds. I kept 5 blogs and 1 comic strip (Dilbert) that I still enjoy reading once in a while.
  • I don’t use Evernote anymore. It was too easy to just collect stuff. If I want to take notes I use Standard Notes. Creating > collecting.
  • I stopped listening to a few podcasts. From a list of 15+ podcasts I was subscribed to, I decided to stick with 5 of them. And I don’t feel obliged to listen to all of them. I look at the feed and decide if it is an episode that interests me, otherwise, I just delete it.
  • I stopped using social media.
  • I cut down the time I spent watching YouTube. I still enjoy some science-related channels, but since I stopped using social media, I don’t feel the pull to go to YouTube anymore.
  • I still read books. That’s one type of information that energizes me. And opting out of all the other forms of digital consumption gave me more time to enjoy reading.

I've simplified many aspects of my life already. Little things like creating a uniform for myself (black pants and a shirt) to go to work make it super easy to get dressed up. I don't waste energy in the morning choosing this or that fashion trend. It’s liberating. Same thing with my breakfast: I eat the same meal every day. It's automatic: I prepare my omelet in the morning and that's it.

I feel like I have more headspace now. It’s a subtle change, but it’s there. Things are slowing down in my mind. I don't crave newsfeeds anymore. On the contrary, I cringe when I see any type of random automated endless newsfeed now. I feel calmer. I feel like I can make decisions. Even the smallest ones were hard for me at times: What should I choose from the sandwich menu? Which phone call should I make first? Which book should I read? What do I want for dinner? It’s all clearer now.

I've regained my love of reading. And my ability to read for long hours. There is space now!

#noisymusings #journal #minimalism


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

Tomorrow I’ll be back to working at the office full time. I’ve been working from home since April 5th, 2021 now. And before that, it was 30 days at home in January/February. So it was a total of 86 days working from home in 2021 or almost 60% of the total days.

I don’t hate working from home, on the contrary, I think it’s refreshing. Maybe if I lived someplace bigger with a dedicated office to work on, I would say I could never go back to a corporate office environment again. But the industry I work in doesn’t really appreciate remote work. On the contrary, my company believes that remote work can’t and will never build “the corporate culture”. They’ve given the employees the means to work from home during the worst of the pandemic when we were in lockdown. But deep down, most managers deeply hated it.

After the first lockdown period, where everybody was working from home, the senior managers of my company decided that they can’t do it, so they came back to the office. So for a long time they were the “skeleton crew” at the office while the rest of the team was at home, trying to deal with all the challenges that this new arrangement brought. I mention this because, for some period of time when schools and daycares were closed, it was painful to watch my co-workers trying to be in a meeting with their kids wanting their attention. Everybody was stressed, nobody could keep the same productivity levels, and still, the senior managers were demanding the same level of compromise. For them, the world was normal. They were quietly working in their individual offices, not having to face the working-from-home challenge.

And now I’m getting back to the office. I got the first dose of the COVID vaccine already, and the company is keeping all the restrictions to avoid the spread of the virus (rapid testing 3x/week, mandatory use of masks, virtual meetings). That’s not the issue. I just wasn’t expecting it to happen tomorrow, and I felt extremely anxious about it. It’s like I’m being forced out of my cocoon. Maybe I thought this process would be more gradual, like working a few days at home then a few days at the office, until all came back to “normal”.

There is something about this situation that bothers me: the fact that there will be no openness to “occasional” remote work after we get back to working “normally” at the office. I think in some industries there have been discussions over having flexible working arrangements from now on. And I think that is a cool option to have. I don’t think that is going to happen within my company.

I’ve developed some habits that help me cope with stress, like meditating early in the afternoon or whenever I feel something triggered me, taking 15 minutes breaks to read a book, or just stopping and breathing some fresh air on my balcony.

I’m wondering how am I going to keep these habits at the office. It seems harder over there. Meditating? Pfff… I’ll probably have to use the lady’s room. We’ll see!

#noisymusings #work #anxiety


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

To get out of a reading slump I focused this month on reading some light romance novels. And it worked! I read 3 non-fiction books, and one of them was extremely helpful to me: The Getting Things Done Workbook.

  1. The Duke and I (Bridgertons #1) by Julia Quinn, 384p: I was curious to read this book because of the Netflix series. I haven't watched the show but I've heard some blurbs about it. And, I had fun reading it, for the most part. I thought the build-up romance was well done in the beginning. I enjoyed the funny dialogues between the two main protagonists. But there was something weird about the female main character. Daphne was portrayed as being smart for the local regency standards. We hear her saying that she was raised with 4 brothers, so she knew everything about rakes and swear words. She's in her 20's, and then we find out that she didn't know how babies are made? And she didn't have a clue what happens to “consummate a marriage”? That threw me off a little bit, suddenly she wasn't as smart as I'd thought. And the conundrum of the Duke, Simon, falling for her and not wanting to marry her because of his issues with siring heirs that was also related to his issues with his late father... anyway. I prefer historical romance when the characters break with the status quo of the time. When they question cultural norms. And in this one the female character, Daphne, achieves her dream of marrying and having a family, changing the Duke's opinion about being a father. They live happily ever after. The end. So, I was enjoying it in the beginning but then it turned to be bleh in the end

  2. A Princess in Theory (Reluctant Royals #1) by Alyssa Cole, 360p: Light and fun romance, with a smart black woman working in STEM research. I had to use my suspension of disbelief to accept the male character being a spoiled rich prince with a good heart (and not an asshole). It has that “fairy tale” feel to it when some things are too good to be true. But, hey, it's fantasy, and it made me smile.

  3. Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style by Carson Tate, 304p: This book brings various productivity strategies based on what the author calls personal productivity styles. There is a questionnaire to help us identify what is our primary style. There are tips on how to write emails, how to manage emails, meeting strategies, task management, note-taking tips. But the core of getting organized is very similar to what is presented in David Allen's “Getting Things Done” method. The good-old “capture, clarify, organize, do”. Some things I think were overgeneralized according to the productivity style, like linking a person's style to how she decorates her office.

  4. Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O'Neil, 254p: Excellent discussion on how the use of algorithms is affecting our education system, how likely are we to be hired, how much we pay for insurance and mortgages. These models have become black boxes that nobody knows exactly how they work but are considered reliable. What few people realize is that these algorithms are reinforcing discrimination and have biases built in them. So, instead of a fair objective system to evaluate whatever (loan approvals, credit scores, job candidates, school teacher's performance, etc), we have opaque models being applied everywhere that cannot be disputed or even understood. It's scary to think that our future life decisions will rely on algorithms.

  5. The Getting Things Done Workbook by David Allen & Brandon Hall, 224p: This book was on my radar for a couple of months and this month I felt I needed a GTD refresher so I picked it up. I loved it! It's totally action-oriented: perfect for people who have already read the Getting Things Done original book. I enjoyed how it presented the 10 Moves going through all the 5 Steps in order. I learned a lot from it! I realized I was overcomplicating my system and the exercises put me back on track.

#readinglist #books #reading


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

#flowers #photo #spring


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

And then anxiety… physical manifestations include light dizziness, butterflies in my belly, light-headed, sweating and even light nausea.

I started this CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and every week I find out more about my thoughts. I never judge or analyze my thoughts. I like talking with myself. So I never realized some of those talks were feeding my anxiety. I just thought I was super organized and liked to have my life under control. And I do. My partner sometimes calls me a “control freak”, in a good way. I’m the organizer and planner of the house. But something happened this past year (maybe it starts with PAN…) that destabilized my planning tendencies.

I’m feeling constantly overwhelmed these days. Especially at work. I can’t close my email tab for fear of missing out on important information and task requests from my manager. I feel like I have to be online and available all the time. If my manager calls me on my mobile and I don’t answer in 3 rings, I think he thinks I’m slacking off at home. I've been having thoughts and thoughts, ruminating on my last phone call conversation, and worrying about all the tasks I still have to finish. I fear my to-do list. It’s scary. I’m having trouble taking notes and deciding what to do next. It seems my work responsibilities are screaming at me all the time and it’s “go, go, go!”.

But I don’t want to go. I want to reflect. I want to breathe…. and then a deadline is coming in 24 hours so I fear it, I don’t stop to take a breath… and boom… anxiety.

On my CBT session today I was doing that exercise about Core Beliefs. The one you try to identify a core belief by completing the phrases: “I am…”, “Others are…”, “The world is…”, “The future is…”. When I got to think about what the world is, my answer was: “The world is cruel and merciless”. My feeling is that the world keeps throwing tasks at me without caring if I can handle them. The world doesn’t care about my feelings. Does it? Anyhow, the point I want to make is that this thought “the world is cruel” seemed so extreme! I was surprised by it. And the consequence is “The future is exhausting”. At least inside my head. What an anxiety-inducing place to be! 😶

So, I will be challenging these beliefs. And I will write about it. I am convinced my thoughts are helping with the overwhelmedness (is that a word?). I’ve never done any type of therapy before and I’m learning a lot.

Less overwhelmed days are coming…

#journal #noisymusings #anxiety


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

What I read in April 2021

This month I abandoned a book. I started reading it, I thought it was not too interesting but I insisted until I got to 40%. Then I gave up. Life is too short. It was actually one of my local Book Club picks. It was the first time I attended a book club meeting without having finished a book. And it was fine! A couple of other participants couldn't finish it either, so I didn't feel that bad. That being said, I read three books this month. And all of them were exactly what I needed: fun!

  1. Fool Moon (The Dresden Files #2) by Jim Butcher: This book is extremely fast-paced. It's non-stop and Harry Dresden shows himself as a guy with extreme endurance. He really gets beat up on this one, but he always gets up in the end. It has the two best potion recipes of all times: the Stimulant “Pick me up” potion (base liquid is coffee) and the Blending potion, to make him imperceptible to a werewolf. I had fun!
  2. The Collapsing Empire (The Interdependency, #1) by John Scalzi, 336p: I love a space opera, especially when it's character-driven. Lots of snarky dialogues, great characters and worldbuilding that is not boring. I was pleasantly surprised by all the strong female characters. Kiva Lagos is awesome if you don't mind all the swearing. I could see lots of parallels from the Interdependency world with ours. It's that same old story: one family or group of people creates some myth/prophecy about the world in which skewed power relations are defined to justify the maintenance of the said world/society. This book is rich with political intrigue, commercial embargoes, power succession and environmental changes. I enjoyed the ride and I want to spend more time with the characters, so I'll read the next one.
  3. Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age by Annalee Newitz, 304p: Fascinating to know how data archeology is helping us understand a little bit more about our ancient history. This book explores four sites: Çatalhöyük in Central Turkey, the Roman town of Pompeii in Italy, Angkor in Cambodia and the indigenous metropolis Cahokia in the U.S. The book brings history to life by trying to imagine what was it like to be a regular citizen of these places: labourers, women, immigrants, slaves. Super entertaining and informative.

#readinglist #books #reading


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

For the past month, I've been having overloaded days at work. It has disrupted my routine, my downtime and my sleep. Handling many projects at a time with deadlines within a couple of weeks is not easy! And although I have a productivity system in place, I organize my day, I have routines and I take notes... things started to fall through the cracks. And I caught myself having to work after-hours to finish things. And sometimes I do work a little bit more, let's say once a month before an important deadline. But what happened last week was insane. I was working extra 4-5 hours for 3 days in a row! And that took a toll on my health. By Friday I was lightheaded, sleepy, anxious, brain fogged, exhausted and with a headache... My right shoulder started hurting again (it usually happens if I spend too much time doing intensive mouse work on the computer). I thought I got rid of this pain... but it's back.

I couldn't prioritize anything, I couldn't organize my notes, I couldn't even take a break. Whenever I stopped to try and breathe I started worrying about the things I was not doing. That's anxiety, right?

Anyway, I've been focusing on some habits to get back on track. It takes time, I can't recover in a couple of days. It takes time for me to get back to my baseline. My self-care focus is:

  1. Sleep. Get as much sleep as possible. But still keeping the same wake-up time. I noticed that when I sleep in I wake up feeling like crap and then all my morning routine is easily put aside.
  2. Meditation. 10 minutes in the morning doesn't look like much but it makes a difference. I feel better when I meditate for 15 or 20 minutes. On the days I worked too much, meditating before bed for 10 minutes helped me have a better sleep.
  3. Stretching/Yoga/Moving. I need to move in the morning. It doesn't have to be anything intense, but I need something. I got into a trap: I woke up tired, I barely stretched in the morning, and that made me feel worse throughout the day, and then I didn't sleep well and the whole cycle repeated itself. So, I NEED at least 20 minutes of exercise in the morning. It's vital to manage my chronic pain.
  4. Waking up early even on weekends. This one I've been neglecting for a while. But every time I sleep in, I regret it. Especially when I skip my meditation/exercise routine first thing in the morning.
  5. Journaling/Writing things down. I've been feeling too tired to write at all. I want to get back to writing for longer periods of time. To reflect, focus on feelings, scrutinize thoughts, let them go and wander.
  6. Reading. I've been too foggy-minded and tired to get any amount of quality reading done. This weekend I finally could get back to my normal reading habit.

For my work routines, I will focus on the following:

  1. Check e-mail less frequently I check email too often. In fact, I leave the email tab open at ALL TIMES! I recognized that it is extremely anxiety-inducing. It's one of those old habits that are hard to get rid of. So, this will be a mini-goal for next week: Check e-mail in the morning, at noon and by 3 pm.
  2. Protect my time. I want to be less reactive to other people's demands. I believe avoiding checking my Inbox might help with this. Unless it's something high priority my manager is asking, I'll take my time to get back to people.
  3. Time block my Calendar. I'll plan my day in the morning, blocking off deep work sessions to focus. No cheking email, social media, news, messages, whatever during deep work.
  4. Stop working at 5 pm. As recommended by Cal Newport, I will start a shutdown routine at 4:45 pm so that I'm off at 5 pm. It might help to do a brain dump session at the end of the day to externalize all my worries and transition to my evening rest.

Phew, I feel better writing this down.

#journal #noisymusings #work #anxiety


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

What I read in March 2021 (updated)

  1. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, 464p: I didn't need to be convinced that God is a delusion, but it was interesting to follow scientific logic to analyze religion and its inconsistencies. Dawkins builds up the God Hypothesis and my favourite part of the book is then he presents the spectrum of probabilities about the existence of God, ranging from 1 to 7, including for example “Strong Theist”, “Impartial Agnostic” all the way to “Strong Atheist”. I considered myself an agnostic but after reading this book I realized I am “De-facto Atheist ” according to the Dawkins spectrum: “I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.” It is an extremely provoking read. But worth the ride.

  2. Empire in Black and Gold (Shadows of the Apt, #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky, 625p: After I understood that the “bug people” were actually humanoid and not animal-like, everything made more sense. They are men and women belonging to different groups like ants, beetles, wasps, butterflies, mantis, dragonflies, etc... Each of these groups has different abilities and characteristics. It's exceptional world-building with that good-old Dungeons and Dragons feel. I couldn't put this book down. It's very engaging and I cared about all the characters, even the evil ones. Strong female characters, cool fight scenes, perfect rhythm. I loved it! I will continue reading the series.

  3. A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload by Cal Newport, 320p: The concept of the hyperactive hive mind workflow makes sense. It gave me some awareness of this workflow and I can probably adopt one or two minor strategies to deal with it. I don't think any of the major strategies, like office hours or having shared boards at work would work for me, it would require an upper management radical shift at my workplace. Also, it has become clear to me the importance of having clear defined workflows. Cal Newport defines that knowledge work as the combination of two components: work execution and workflow. So workflows that require us to be constantly checking a feed or inbox is inefficient and make us miserable. A better way of working is to have fewer ad hoc, unscheduled, asynchronous conversations. In summary, the book brings suggestions on how to use email very strategically if not at all. It's an interesting discussion. I loved the first part of the book about the history of email.

  4. The Fold (Threshold #2) by Peter Clines, 386p: This was an enjoyable read. It starts with a mystery, the main character has to uncover what is going on with this secret DARPA project involving a teleportation device. But nobody tells him how it works so we follow along with his exceptional visual memory skills trying to find patterns and explanations for some odd phenomena. [It's all very sci-fi/mystery and then the book turns into a sort of horror tale with monsters from other dimensions. Entertaining!

#readinglist #books #reading


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

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